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Digital skills

Microsoft, Rare and Catch22 team up to run pre-employability support for budding gamers

A man and a woman sit on a sofa playing video games together. A large screen television is in front of them, and there is a computer and desk chair in the background.

Last week Catch22 ran a taster session on breaking into the gaming industry. Over 200 young people signed up to take part in this interactive session. Catch22 Development Manager, Isabel Jones, runs through the key takeaways from the workshop.

Get into Gaming with Rare has kicked off this week, supporting individuals facing barriers to work and equipping them with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to build a successful career in the world of video games.

Catch22’s partnership with Microsoft has supported close to 200 people into digital and tech-enabled roles through our incredibly successful Digital Edge programme. Gaming often serves as a bridge for participants to enter the tech industry and we have found that our cohorts are often filled with video game enthusiasts who would love to work in the sector. However, the video games industry is seen as inaccessible to many of our participants and often it’s not even on their radar.

The context

Video game development in the UK brings in more than £7billion annually and employs more than 20,000 people in full-time roles with the majority of those workers being male, university educated and from a household where the main income is from a person in a managerial or professional role.

Rare, an Xbox Game studio, owned by Microsoft since 2002, develop well-known games such as the open-world Sea of Thieves and iconic first-person shooter GoldenEye 007 – that’s just naming a few! Given the billion-pound video game industry and the success of our employability programme, it was a no-brainer to pilot a gaming-focused version of Digital Edge with Rare.

The taster session

On June 27th 2023, we held a one-hour taster session of our Get into Gaming programme and were overwhelmed with interest! In the three weeks the taster session was advertised, we had 280 people register to attend and within 48 hours of the session going live, 130 applied for the main programme.

We kicked off the session with a simple question: What roles in gaming are you looking for?

We had over 200 responses including 3D Character Animation and Creature Concept Artist. With a session full of passionate and ambitious gamers, who were all there for the same reason: to understand how to access this seemingly inaccessible industry.

At the end of the taster, participants engaged in a question and answer session, where discussions revolved around the barriers encountered when entering the industry. Below summarises the key points as to why the industry seems inaccessible to many people:

  • Lack of knowledge about the amount of gaming studios there are in the UK, which are often on their doorstep.
    • Did you know there are more than 10 studios in Liverpool alone!
  • Understanding what entry-level roles are available and the different pathways into the industry.
  • Low-educational attainment and the belief they need a degree to work in games.
  • Perceived barriers such as disability and neurodiversity.
  • Other personal circumstances including parental commitments and caring responsibilities.
    • UKIE research also states that pre-pandemic, 80% of the gaming industry worked in the office but in Autumn 2021, this shifted to 80% working at home, offering greater flexibility.
  • It’s expensive! There is often a cost to individuals upskilling themselves to gain the technical skills required for certain roles. Moreover, individuals are often unable to financially support themselves while taking low paid apprenticeships or unpaid internships.

The key takeaways

1. The video games industry needs diversity

Research suggests that workers within the video game industry are significantly more likely than the general population to have grown up in a household where the main income earner worked in a managerial or professional job. In addition, 82% of workers reported having at least an undergraduate qualification.

2. Gender equality is crucial in shaping the future of the gaming industry.

There are more than 30million gamers in the UK and women account for nearly half of that, at around 47%. However, according to the 2022 UKIE census, 67% of the video games workforce is male, 30% is female and 3% identify as non-binary. Having spoken to industry professionals, many have raised concerns that more needs to be done to increase diversity in the sector.

3. Diversity fosters new and innovative ideas.

At Catch22, we understand the benefit of diverse representation in all industries, be it gender, disability, neurodiversity, race, or any other social group. In video games, it can provide the potential for more innovation within the games themselves by allowing under-represented voices to share their perspectives and ideas through the games they design. A diverse team behind game development will create a more inclusive and appealing experience for a wider range of players.

The advice for individuals trying to access the industry

We had professionals from Rare join the session and they shared valuable advice for aspiring industry entrants. Their tips, along with insights from other industry insiders cover the following key points:

  • You do not need to be able to develop software, code or even be that tech savvy to work in the gaming industry – yes, for some roles it will be essential but, like any industry, they have HR departments, marketing, finance, sales… the list goes on!
  • You do not need a degree to work in the gaming industry. It can be helpful, but there are many other routes into the industry: internships, work experience, apprenticeships or having a standout portfolio.
  • Your first, second, or even third job might not be in video games, but it can be part of your longer-term plan. Being ambitious is great but remember any work experience in the right direction is good, it might not be your first job, but it can be in your five-year plan!
  • Network! Social capital is incredibly helpful, so go to events – a lot of them are free! Talk to people in the industry, add them on LinkedIn, be bold and don’t give up.
  • Don’t let what you perceive to be barriers put you off – diversity is great!

Catch22 aims to open opportunities to those who may have been unable to attain them without support. We have had over-whelming demand for this programme, and we cannot wait to see the success it will bring!

If you want to discuss anything mentioned in this post or have a chat about partnering with us on something similar, please contact us.

– Isabel Jones, Development Manager at Catch22